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Community members and some of Abby Zwerner’s former colleagues played basketball to show support for the school before students returned to class on Monday.

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia — In Newport News, the community rallies in support of families and Richneck Elementary School staff three weeks after police announced a 6-year-old boy shot a first-grade teacher .

The Christopher Newport University men’s basketball team dedicated their game against Salisbury University to Richneck. It’s the team’s first home game since the shooting.

The Freeman Center stadium was packed with fans on Saturday. Some are CNU-colored, but many are green in honor of Richneck Elementary’s school colors.

Some fans purchased t-shirts advertising the words “Richneck Strong”, with all proceeds going to Abby Zwerner.

Captain’s coach John Krikorian came up with the idea. He said the shooting at Richneck Elementary School “happened close to home.”

He wasn’t the only one affected by the tragedy.

“I was blown away when I first heard it,” Troy Latch said during Saturday’s game.

Latuch was Principal of Richneck Elementary School from 2015 to 2021. He said he hired Zwerner to head the Hilton Elementary of Newport News before leaving school.

“I really enjoyed her personality and the way she carried herself. I thought she would be a good fit for Richneck or Newport News Public Schools,” Ratouch said.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew called Abby Zwarner a hero. Even after the shooting, Zwerner got his students to safety, he said.

The behavior of the 25-year-old teacher that day should come as no surprise to those who worked with her.

“I would have expected her to act that way, absolutely. I think most teachers would have acted that way. I was very proud,” said Latuch.

“She was the kind of selfless person who wanted to help her children first and foremost,” said Karen Jarvis.

Jarvis said he filled in as a stand-in for Zwerner’s class many times. She had nothing but kind words to describe her.

“I was very passionate and always wanted the best for my children,” Jarvis said.

After nearly a month of hiatus, students return to class on Monday.

The transition may be difficult, but one thing is certain. It means they have a community behind them.

“I hope that over time they will heal and return to the great vibe that Richneck had in the beginning,” Jarvis said.

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